Using Articles• What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.• English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the indefinite article. • the = definite article • a/an = indefinite article• For example, if I say, "Lets read the book," I mean a specific book. If I say, "Lets read a book," I mean any book rather than a specific book.
• Heres another way to explain it: The is used to refer to a specific or particular member of a group. For example, "I just saw the most popular movie of the year." There are many movies, but only one particular movie is the most popular. Therefore, we use the.• "A/an" is used to refer to a non-specific or non- particular member of the group. For example, "I would like to go see a movie." Here, were not talking about a specific movie. Were talking about any movie. There are many movies, and I want to see any movie. I dont have a specific one in mind.• Normally, we use a/an to refer to something for the first time. For example, “We went to a museum in Paris. We ate at the museum too”.
Indefinite Articles: a and an• "A" and "an" signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to any member of a group. For example:• "My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas." This refers to any dog. We dont know which dog because we havent found the dog yet.• "Somebody call a policeman!" This refers to any policeman. We dont need a specific policeman; we need any policeman who is available.• "When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!" Here, were talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an elephant. There are probably several elephants at the zoo, but theres only one were talking about here.
Remember, using a or an depends on thesound that begins the next word. So...• a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog• an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan• a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like yoo-zer, i.e. begins with a consonant y sound, so a is used); a university; a unicycle• Remember that this rule also applies when you use acronyms: • Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) handles first-year writing at the University. Therefore, an ICaP memo generally discusses issues concerning English 106 instructors.
• If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends on the initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article: • a broken egg • an unusual problem • a European country (sounds like yer-o-pi-an, i.e. begins with consonant /j/ sound)• Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are used to indicate membership in a group: • I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group known as teachers.) • Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the people known as Irish.) • Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member of the group of people known as Buddhists.)
Definite Article: the• The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. For example:• "The dog that bit me ran away." Here, were talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.• "I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat!" Here, were talking about a particular policeman. Even if we dont know the policemans name, its still a particular policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.• "I saw the elephant at the zoo." Here, were talking about a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant at the zoo.
Countable and Noncountable Nouns• The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article can be omitted entirely. • "I love to sail over the water" (some specific body of water) or "I love to sail over water" (any water). • "He spilled the milk all over the floor" (some specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or "He spilled milk all over the floor" (any milk).• "A/an" can be used only with count nouns. • "I need a bottle of water." • "I need a new glass of milk."• Most of the time, you cant say, "She wants a water," unless youre implying, say, a bottle of water.
Geographical use of the• Do not use the before: • Do use the before:• names of most countries/territories: • names of rivers, oceans and Italy, Mexico, Bolivia; however, the seas: the Nile, the Pacific Netherlands, the Dominican • points on the globe: the Republic, the Philippines, the Equator, the North Pole United States • geographical areas: the Middle• names of cities, towns, or states: East, the West Seoul, Manitoba, Miami • deserts, forests, gulfs, and• names of streets: Washington peninsulas: the Sahara, the Blvd., Main St. Persian Gulf, the Black• names of lakes and bays: Lake Forest, the Iberian Peninsula Titicaca, Lake Erie except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes• names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn• names of continents (Asia, Europe)• names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
Don’t forget the:• The centre, the top, the middle, the bottom, the left, the right, the end of, the beginning of…• The same, the best, the worst…• The sun, the moon, the world, the sky, the sea, the ground, the country…• The police, the fire brigade, the army…• The piano, the guitar, the trumpet, the flute…• The radio (but television, without the)• The doctor, the toilet, the bank, the theatre, the post office, the dentist, the cinema…
Do not use the:• Breakfast, lunch, dinner• Go to work, get to work, be at work, start work, finish work…• Got to school, be at school, start school, leave school…• Go to university, be at university…• Go to church, be in chuch (or mass)• Go to bed, be in bed• Go to hospital, be in hospital• Go to prison, be in prison• Go home, get home, arrive home, come home, walk home, leave home, be at home, stay at home
Omission of Articles• Some common types of nouns that dont take an article are:• Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian• Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball• Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science
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